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Major opponent of gay marriage switches sides

David Blankenhorn, a national figure in the movement against same-sex marriage, has recanted his opposition, saying “the time has come for me to accept gay marriage and emphasize the good that it can do.”
/ Source: The New York Times

David Blankenhorn, a national figure in the movement against same-sex marriage, has recanted his opposition, saying “the time has come for me to accept gay marriage and emphasize the good that it can do.”

Mr. Blankenhorn, the founder and president of the Institute for American Values, wrote an influential book that argued against same-sex marriage in 2007, called “The Future of Marriage,” and served as an expert witness against the constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which limited marriage to heterosexuals.

On Friday, he said in an opinion article for The New York Times, published online, and in an interview on NPR that his concerns about same-sex marriage remained, but that “the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over.”

“I opposed gay marriage believing that children have the right, insofar as society makes it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world,” he wrote in the article.

He said he still held that conviction. But he added, “Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness.”

'He's dead wrong'
Mr. Blankenhorn’s onetime allies said they were troubled but unimpressed.

“He’s dead wrong,” said the Rev. Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, Calif. “I am a student of history. Christianity has made clear that marriage is between one man and one woman. And what we have seen is that when you change marriage for some, you change marriage for all.”

The focus on same-sex marriage has grown rapidly in recent years, both legislatively and legally. Two requests for review of same-sex marriage rulings in federal courts, including the Proposition 8 case, are headed to the Supreme Court this summer.

Other cases are being argued in lower courts, and referendum initiatives will be on the ballots in November in four states — Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

Last month, President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage after nearly two years of saying that his views on the topic had been evolving.

Polls show public opinion has also been shifting rapidly toward acceptance of it, although about 30 states have passed constitutional amendments in recent years defining marriage as between only a man and a woman.

Six states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont — as well as the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage. Nine others — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Oregon and Washington — allow comprehensive domestic partnerships or civil unions granting same-sex couples full rights except in name.

Mr. Blankenhorn, who was raised in the South and attended Harvard, had long stood out among opponents of same-sex marriage because he did not invoke a biblical or religious justification and did not oppose civil unions for gay men and lesbians.

Instead, he argued that marriage was society’s most important institution and had in recent decades come under attack, and that same-sex marriage was only adding to its decline.

'Underlying antigay animus'
He said that he had long hoped the debate over same-sex marriage would center on parenthood, not private relationships, but that in the public’s mind today the issue was simply about equality for gay men and lesbians — in other words, civil rights.

“And to my deep regret,” he wrote, “much of the opposition to gay marriage seems to stem, at least in part, from an underlying antigay animus. To me, a Southerner by birth whose formative moral experience was the civil rights movement, this fact is profoundly disturbing.”

Mr. Blankenhorn has long had his fans in the pro-gay-rights community. Andrew Sullivan, who writes for The Daily Beast, wrote on Friday that Mr. Blankenhorn was “perhaps the most clearly decent, intellectually honest, nonhomophobic opponent of marriage equality.” He praised him for his switch.

Peter S. Sprigg, the senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, which opposes same-sex marriage, said Mr. Blankenhorn’s new position was unfortunate but was, in his view, a result of social pressure and his eagerness not to be seen as antigay.

“He has thrown marriage under the bus for the sake of the homosexual movement,” Mr. Sprigg said.

This article, headlined "Gay Marriage Gains Backer as Major Foe Revises Views," first appeared in The New York Times.